Words by: Jennifer Minsky | Images by: Mitch Manzella
Hockey :: 03.16.10 :: Johnny Brenda's :: Philadelphia, PA
As they say in real estate, location is everything. This tenet speaks to the dichotomy between the Philadelphia and New York City music scenes. The latter brings sold out crowds, as folks are eager to absorb newness and word of mouth spreads quickly. Furthermore, if you wanted to see your favorite band, they almost always play NYC. It seems that times are changing, however, as Philly has been attracting more and more acts with comparable venues. Case in point: Johnny Brenda's, a fabulous atmosphere for music lovers with its multi-level viewing areas and unpretentious charm. This is where Hockey and opener The Postelles lost their Philly virginity.
The Postelles tried their best to ready everyone for the night ahead. While they played to a smaller crowd, the band nevertheless provided poppy beats a la early Strokes. It is important, and amusing to note that The Constellations were slated to perform as well but decided that SXSW was a more essential place to be.
Most likely you haven't heard of Hockey, or if you have, it was probably through their breakthrough performance at last year's Bonnaroo Festival. Their music is a somewhat complex mixture of derivativeness and novelty, but in summary, they sound like a modernized version of the Happy Mondays in their heyday. Thus, a combination of rock/dance/electro with lyrics that are assertive and uncomplicated ("Look out! Cause I'm just too fake for the world").
The image singer Benjamin Grubin (who looks somewhat eerily similar to Corey Haim), guitarist Brian White, bassist Jeremy Reynolds, drummer Anthony Stassi and keyboardist Ryan Dolliver purport is a retro '80s vibe (DayGlo shirts, hooded denim jackets, frilly mustaches). Hockey started their 12-song set with "Work." Grubin's voice resonated throughout the entire venue with soul and commitment. I kept wondering how his performance would be if the stage was larger, but as it was, all five members were crammed together. Thus, all Grubin could do was a bit of swaggering and intense microphone grabbing. He did, however, accompany Stassi on the drums throughout many of the songs, which provided extra texture and excitement.
The band played through a chunk of material from their debut album, Mind Chaos, and stayed close to the arrangements; there was no real improvisation or extended jams. The set was a mix of energy and calmness with songs like "Preacher" and two brand new songs that were slower and poetic. Highlights included the debut single "Too Fake" and "3am Spanish," which got the somewhat reticent crowd moving. Other offerings included "Learn to Lose," "Song Away," "Four Holy Photos" and "Curse This City." The band is currently touring the States, including an appearance at Coachella.
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